Playing A Stroke With Part Of An Abandoned Ball

Playing By The Rules

I had an interesting Rules situation arise while officiating at a Blue Water Junior Golf Tour event at the Port Huron Golf  Club a few weeks ago.  On the sixteenth hole, lying in some heavy grass was an abandoned ball which had broken into pieces.  A player hit their tee shot into the heavy grass.  The player arrived at the spot where they had thought that their ball had landed, found what they thought was their ball and hit it.  After hitting the shot, and realizing what they hit was a piece of the ball, the player walked forward about fifteen feet and found their ball, which was the same brand as the abandoned broken ball.  The player then hit their ball and finished play of the hole and recorded their score not counting the stroke taken with the abandoned ball.

On the next tee before teeing off,  the player called me over to tell me what had happened.  I told the player that they would have to add two strokes to the score they had made on the previous hole because the stroke they made with the abandoned ball was a stroke made at a wrong ball.  The player argued with me saying that the abandoned broken ball is not a ball and therefore they had not played a wrong ball.  I took out my decisions book and referred the player to Decision 15/3 Player Plays Stroke at Part of Abandoned Ball Which Had Broken Into Pieces.  This exact situation had happened before and had been ruled on.  According to the Decision, the player had made a stroke with a wrong ball and thus incurred a two-stroke penalty for a breach of Rule 15 – 3b.  The Rule states that if a competitor in stroke play makes a stroke or strokes at a wrong ball, he incurs a penalty of two strokes.

Frank Guastella, PGA Rules Official Michigan Section PGA
Staff Writer, Mike Fay Golf
If you have a question for Frank here’s where you can contact him.
Email:  fguastella@franklin-golf.net
To “follow” Frank on Twitter click here
To “like” Frank on Facebook click here

The Tiger Woods Masters Rules Controversy and Rule 33-7

Playing By The Rules

The Masters Tournament may be over, but the Rules of Golf controversy regarding the Tiger Woods drop on the #15 hole at Augusta National will be discussed for years.  A lot of the trouble was caused by the committee in charge of running and administering the Masters.  It baffles me that the Masters is the only one of the four major tournaments that does not assign a walking rules official with each group.  Part of the Masters tradition is that no one  is allowed inside the ropes during play other than players, caddies and TV cameramen.  You will not see a walking scorer, media or rules officials.  Rules officials are stationed in carts around the golf course and wait to be called upon if needed.  Weekly PGA Tour events are run the same way because there are not enough rules officials on the PGA Tour staff  for each group. A regular PGA Tour event usually has eight officials.  The major championships have rules officials from around the world who have been invited to attend and participate.

If a walking rules official had been with Woods he would have been able to Tiger Taking A Dropmake sure that Woods understood his options after his third shot on hole 15 hit the flagstick and caromed back into the water.  The official would also have instructed Woods to make certain that his drop was as near to where he had hit his previous shot as possible.

Even if a walking rules official had failed to instruct Woods, the rules committee chairman, Fred Ridley, after he was alerted to the possibility the drop was incorrect, should have met Woods in the scoring area to ask him what happened and, if necessary, take him to the TV trucks to review the drop.  Instead, Ridley ruled that Woods had not violated the rules before Woods finished his round.  It was only after Woods related what he had done in a TV interview that the issue arose again and it was not until Saturday morning that Woods was penalized.  The committees initial ruling was wrong and Ridley should have spoken directly to Woods before making a ruling.

Up until two years ago, the committee would have had no choice under the rules but to disqualify Woods for signing a wrong scorecard even if the committees mistake caused it to happen.  Rule 33 – 7  Disqualification Penalty, Committee Discretion states:  “A penalty of disqualification may in exceptional cases be waived, modified or imposed if the Committee considers such action warranted.  Any penalty less than disqualification must not be waived or modified.  If a Committee considers that a player is guilty of a serious breach of etiquette, it may impose a penalty of disqualification under the Rule”.

The intent of Rule 33 – 7 was to protect players who could not have known they violated a rule such as in the case of the Padraig Harrington so-called “HD” ruling when only super slow motion replays in HD showed that his ball had barely moved on a green while he was addressing it.  Rule 33 – 7 clearly should not have applied to what happened to Woods.

Frank Guastella, PGA Rules Official Michigan Section PGA
Staff Writer, Mike Fay Golf
If you have a question for Frank here’s where you can contact him.
Email:  fguastella@franklin-golf.net
To “follow” Frank on Twitter click here
To “like” Frank on Facebook click here

photo courtesy: Yahoo

Learning To Use The Golf Rules Book

Playing By The Rules

With the competitive golf season now on the horizon, learning how to use a Rules book could come in very handy if you plan on playing any tournament golf.  The Rules book itself is actually organized very logically and is not as complicated to use as one might imagine.  A good starting point is the Contents pages which can be found on pages 2 through 4 in the pocket version of the Rules of Golf.

Rules 1, 2 and 3 deal with the game itself.  Rule 1 defines the game and Rules 2 and 3 describe the formats of play, that being Match Play and Stroke Play.  Rules 4 and 5 deal with equipment.  Rule 4 defines the rules for golf clubs and Rule 5 defines the rules for golf balls.

Rules 6 through 9 cover the players responsibilities such as practice, advice, indicating line of play and information as to strokes taken.  Rule 10 tells us about the order of play.  Now that the preliminaries are out of the way, we are ready to get on the golf course and start play.  Rule 11 starts with the teeing ground.  Rules 12 through 15 educate us on playing the ball and deal with searching for and identifying the ball, ball played as it lies, striking the ball and substituted and wrong balls.  We have now reached the putting green, so Rules 16 and 17 cover the putting green and what you can and cannot do once you reach the putting green and flagstick.

Rules 18 and 19 instruct us on what to do if a ball is moved, deflected or stopped when the ball is at rest or in motion.  Rules 20 through 28 describe relief situations and procedures like lifting, dropping and placing your ball, playing from a wrong place, obstructions, water hazards, embedded balls, balls lost or out of bounds and a ball that is unplayable.

Rules 29 through 32 cover other forms of play like threesomes, foursomes, three balls, best balls and Stableford competitions.  Finally, Rules 33 and 34 deal with Tournament Administration and define tournament committees and how to handle disputes and decisions.

If you don’t read all of the Rules book, I would encourage you to read at least page 9 “How to Use the Rules Book”.  It will save you a great deal of time and will prevent misinterpretations and misunderstandings.  The final paragraph on that page reads “Understanding the Words”.  You should be aware of and understand the following differences in word use:

MAY = optional
SHOULD = recommendation
MUST = instruction (and penalty if not carried out)
A BALL = you may substitute another ball (e.g. Rules 26, 27 and 28)
THE BALL = you must not substitute another ball (e.g. Rules 24 – 2 and 25 – 1)

The following page, #10 is equally as important.  It continues the explanation of “How to Use the Rule Book” , including “Know the Definitions” and “The Facts of the Case”.  Again, information on this page will be helpful when applying the Rules of Golf.  Very few players take the time to read the entire Rules of Golf book from start to finish.  It is not fascinating or exciting reading, but at least knowing how to USE a Rules book could help you to apply the Rules correctly.   Here’s hoping you have a great golf season and let’s all pitch in and help #growgolf and #growgolfrules

Frank Guastella, PGA Rules Official Michigan Section PGA
Staff Writer, Mike Fay Golf
If you have a question for Frank here’s where you can contact him.
Email:  fguastella@franklin-golf.net
To “follow” Frank on Twitter click here
To “like” Frank on Facebook click here

Determining Nearest Point of Relief

Playing By The Rules

In Rule 24-2b, Immovable Obstruction Relief, we see that relief through the green is granted from the interference.  The player must lift the ball and drop it, without penalty, within one club-length of and not nearer the hole than the nearest point of relief.  What is “nearest point of relief” and how is it determined?  May the player use any club, address position, direction of play or swing in determining the nearest point of relief?

In determining the nearest point of relief in an accurate manner it is recommended that the player use the club, address position, direction of play and swing (right or left-handed) that he or she would have used had the obstruction or condition not been there.  For example, the player has interference from an immovable obstruction and, were it not for the obstruction, the player would have used a right-handed swing with a 5-iron to play the ball from its original position towards the green.  To determine the nearest point of relief accurately, he should use a right-handed swing with a 5-iron and the direction of play should be towards the green.

The nearest point of relief is defined as the reference point for taking relief without penalty from interference by an immovable obstruction (Rule 24-2), an abnormal ground condition (Rule 25-1) or a wrong putting green (Rule 25-3).  It is the point on the course nearest where the ball lies: (i) that is not nearer the hole, and (ii) where, if the ball was so positioned, no interference by the condition from which relief is sought would exist for the stroke the player would have made from the original position if the condition were not there.

If you have any questions on the Rules of Golf please submit them to Mike Fay Golf and your question will be answered here or on #askthepro.

Frank Guastella, PGA Rules Official Michigan Section PGA
Staff Writer, Mike Fay Golf
If you have a question for Frank here’s where you can contact him.
Email:  fguastella@franklin-golf.net
To “follow” Frank on Twitter click here
To “like” Frank on Facebook click here

Ban On Anchoring-Have We Gone Too Far?

The USGA and the R&A, the governing bodies of golf, have proposed a rule change that would ban anchoring of a putter to the body while making a stroke.  How clever.  The USGA and R&A are not specifically banning anchored putting, instead, they have proposed a new definition of what defines a swing or stroke, Rule 14 – 1b.  The new rule does not allow for anchoring a club to the body while making a stroke, though it will provide an exception to resting a club against the forearm, in the manner that Matt Kucher does when he putts.

The new rule will prohibit sticking a belly putter into your abdomen the way Keegan Bradley does and it would also prohibit a player from pinning his hand against his chest while using a long putter the way Adam Scott does.  The governing bodies won’t officially move to adopt the rule until spring.  There will be a three month time frame for more opinions and commentary on the proposal.  The rule would become effective on January 1, 2016 when the Rules of Golf are scheduled for an update.  Peter Dawson of the R&A stated, “Our objective is to preserve the essential skill and challenge of the game of golf.”  Mike Davis of the USGA said, “We cannot honestly say to you that for some players in some situations it is not an advantage.  What we are saying is when we write the playing rules, it is never about the advantages or disadvantages, or whether something is making the game easier.  We are just defining the game.  We are trying to get back to where the game used to be before anchored strokes.”

If this isn’t a performance based decision, why change the rule?  Is every player on every tour using it?  Is every top ranking amateur using it?  The answer to both questions is a big NO.  Where is the data that supports this potential boost in performance?  There is none.  The best that the USGA and R&A can point to is this: In the past 20 years, the percentage of players using the belly putter has increased from 2 to 4 percent in the 1980’s to one survey ESTIMATING its usage at 15 percent in 2012.  I would call this an evolutionary process.  The game of golf has evolved over the years and anchoring is just a part of that evolution.  Let’s face it, a very small percentage of players today are in the “elite” category.  The highest percentage of golfers today would be considered recreational, at best.  If anchoring makes the game more fun for someone and has helped them lower their score from 120 to 115 for eighteen holes, so be it.

Let’s take a look at what has happened to game of golf since 1986 when the start of the over development of golf course communities, where developers subsidized golf loses with home sales, began.  Now let’s move to 1997 when Tiger Woods burst onto the golf scene.  The National Golf Foundation predicts we need a course a day built.  America has 13.7 million avid players (played at least 4 times per month) and 25 million people playing 1 to 3 times per year.  In 2000 golf spectatorship and TV ratings hit an all time high.  By 2004 the bomb and gouge professional game destroys classic golf courses.  In 2007 the American economy starts its downward spiral and the global economy follows.  By 2008 American avid golfers were down to 8.7 million people and 18.5 million golfers were playing 1 to 3 times on an annual basis.  We lost 5 million avid golfers and 7 million core players in an eleven year span.  Starting in 2006, golf course closures have outpaced golf course openings for six straight years.  In that time frame over 475 golf courses have closed in the United States.  It has hurt local economies and put many golf professionals, superintendents, course managers and other golf related employees out of work.  In the year 2012, the PGA of America said enough is enough and launched an initiative to grow the game called Golf 2.0.  Hopefully, this initiative will help to stem the downward trend in golf and get people excited to play.  The goal of the initiative is to make golf fun.

My question to the governing bodies o golf is this, what have you really done to grow the game over the years?  What have you done to adopt to the changing culture and demographics and to understanding today’s youth?  Junior golf is down.  55 percent of all American Junior Golf Association players  quit golf by the age of 20.  Is banning anchoring going to grow golf?  I think not and I think it is a bad idea.  My hope is that the PGA of America steps up to the plate during this time of opinions and commentary and asks the USGA and R&A how the ban on anchoring is going to grow the game of golf.  The USGA and R&A keep talking about the “traditions” of the game, but anchoring has been in existence for over 30 years.  Now all of a sudden we need to ban it?  I think the next three months are going to be very interesting as players, golf manufacturers, and the golf industry in general, weigh in on this decision.  It is time to give something back to the recreational golfer.  I hope the ban on anchoring goes away.  That’s my take, what is yours?

Frank Guastella, PGA Rules Official Michigan Section PGA

Staff Writer, Mike Fay Golf

If you have a question for Frank here’s where you can contact him.

Email:  fguastella@franklin-golf.net

To “follow” Frank on Twitter click here

To “like” Frank on Facebook click here

Photo:  USGA/USA Today

Pin It on Pinterest